Thailand Commissions T-50TH

 - April 5, 2018, 3:18 AM
RTAF Commander Air Chief Marshal Johm Rungswang presided over the ceremony in which four T-50THs were commissioned into the air force. (Photo: RTAF)

The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) commissioned into service its first batch of four Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) T-50TH Golden Eagles on April 4. The aircraft were inducted by 401 Squadron, based at Takhli.  

The first pair of T-50THs was delivered on January 25, following a ferry flight from South Korea. The aircraft suffered some engine damage due to inclement weather over the South China Sea, resulting in a two-week delay. Two more T-50s arrived in March, this time delivered by a Korean Air Cargo 747F freighter.

Part of the acceptance tests conducted by the RTAF covered the functionality of a four-way datalink between the aircraft and the embedded tactical training simulation (ETTS) system, simulating a virtual dogfight against eight "enemy" fighters. The ETTS also allows the RTAF to perform in-flight weapon simulation of AIM-9S Sidewinder and AIM-120C AMRAAM missile firings.

The T-50THs will be the primary lead-in fighter trainer for potential RTAF F-16A/B and Saab JAS 39C/D Gripen pilots and will replace Aero L-39ZA/ART Albatros fighters. The RTAF will receive another eight T-50THs from KAI following a second order signed in July 2017.

In the Philippines, 12 KAI FA-50PHs have given the Philippines Air Force (PAF) air combat capabilities absent since the retirement of the Northrop F-5A Freedom Tiger in 2004. The PAF restarted its air force level exercise Sanay Sibat in late February, 23 years after the previous event. Combat scenarios such as suppression of enemy air defenses, tactical air intercept, and combat air patrol were carried out between the FA-50PH and the venerable SIAI-Marchetti S-211 jet trainer.

Meanwhile, the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) has published its report on the “Black Eagles” T-50B incident that occurred on Feb. 6, 2018, the opening day of the Singapore Airshow. The report states that the "pilot had disengaged the nosewheel steering prematurely when the aircraft’s nosecone and front wheels were not perfectly aligned,” and found no aircraft flaw that contributed to the incident.

Instead of aborting the takeoff, the pilot pressed on: “He was so eager to fix the problem that he tried repeatedly to bring the aircraft under control,” said the statement. The T-50B veered off the runway and overturned, before catching fire. The pilot escaped with minor injuries. The “Black Eagles” routine was cancelled and later pulled from the airshow schedule.